2017 – A Year of Art and Climbing Everest!!!

2017 has been a strange year and on more than one occasion I’ve heard myself saying “This can’t be reality?”, as if I’d slipped into some dream state without my knowing…I mean come on, apart from the dreadful and embarrassing debacle that is ‘Brexit’, we’re now living in an odd dystopian universe where an unhinged, dangerously narcissistic, orange, sexual offending, racist twat is the American President with his short fat fingers on the nuclear button!

Yeap, 2017 was a weird year. The saddest thing to hit early in the year was the loss of my hero David Bowie. Anyone with any inkling of creativity in them mourned his loss and feels it still.

But despite the sad loss of Bowie and wonderful actors like John Hurt, 2017 did bring up some revelatory surprises too. For me personally, this was undoubtedly the ‘Year of Art’.

I started the year committing myself to the 365 day Artmaniac Challenge (following in the footsteps of Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell), by creating a new piece of art EVERY DAY for a whole year! I started well, in fact for the first 3 months of the year I did create a brand new piece of art every day, firstly rough sketches and then portraits! It was exhilarating, I hadn’t done any portraits in 20 years and was thrilled that I could still do them!

I also began the year finishing a fantasy map art commission for the lovely fantasy author, Anna Smith-Spark, which became a commission for HarperCollins as they approached me to become one of their illustrators! I was amazed and flabbergasted! A second HarperCollins commission quickly followed for the equally lovely Anna Stephens for another fantasy map. The year continued like that, in a blur of deadlines and commissions. I’ve never been busier and considering I don’t advertise and still use a free weebly website for my illustration business, I was astounded at the interest I was getting.

Both fantasy maps for HarperCollins ended up being picked up and bought by other publishers around the world, Dutch, German, US publishers like Orbit and Random House – I was suddenly glimpsing through the keyhole of big league success – it really is a whole different story to the indie world I’ve lived in for so long!

The year flashed by and before I knew it the giddy pleasures of summer had come and gone in a haze of excitement, silk painting, BBQ’s (with my lovely Grimbold posse) and writing.

It is true to say that 2017 was not a great year for my writing, in fact I haven’t written anything now in months following a crisis of confidence a few months back. I will eventually return to writing as I always have, but I don’t have that belief in my abilities anymore the way I used to, I’m hoping given time that I will find my voice again somewhere but for now I’m happy just to follow my art and get my creative fulfilment that way. BUT, 2017 was a great year for other writers, most notably my amazing publishers, Grimbold Books, who were not only nominated for Best Independent Press in the British Fantasy Society Awards (BFS Awards) … but actually WON IT!!!!!

YAY!!! Go Grimbold go!

The end of summer came (and my dreaded birthday) and I was neck deep in prep for October’s BristolCon where I’d be exhibiting my artwork – gulp, my first art exhibition for 20 years! I was nervous to say the least but it went amazingly well, better than I could have dreamed of in fact! 😀

A huge thank you to my Grimbold family and to awesome authors like Gareth L Powell who actually helped me put up some of my pictures (and who also very kindly told me about the V&A Illustrator’s Competition for illustrations published in 2017!) THANK YOU! ❀

After the wonderful BristolCon I was then approached by Penguin Random House for a commission for them! A few weeks later I also started my latest commission for the inspirational Dan Holloway and Oxford University – a massive commission for 50 unique images! I’m manically producing them as I type this last blog entry for the year! 😀

2017 has definitely been a peculiar year, a year of creative highs and depressive lows, of hopes and dreams and major steps forward for the future. Professionally – it’s been the best year of my life as an illustrator and I feel very blessed and lucky! Personally – it’s been more of a rollercoaster ride. I’ve found myself in the grips and depths of depression a couple of times this year, which has been a struggle and heartbreakingly, another friend, the amazing Lisa Scullard suddenly and shockingly died while 38 weeks pregnant. She had so many hopes for this year and next and they were suddenly snatched away. 😩

The only positive I can draw from such a cruel tragedy is that it really put a rocket up my arse – life is fucking short and precious folks, if you haven’t accomplished what you want, DO IT. If you doing something you don’t want to be – STOP and CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Life goes in a flash. So yes, I am following one dream in particular, a dream I’ve had for the last 14 years and I am doing everything I can to achieve it. Hopefully this time next year my life will be dramatically different…please keep all your fingers, toes and everything else crossed for me, I have an Everest to climb, the odds are against me, but still I’m pursuing this goal – 2018 will be make or break.

So, as the year closes, with only minutes to spare…I want to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a coming year of dreams and hopes.

Hold your heart in your hands and cradle those dreams, whatever they are, and never give up. Love to you all. ❀ xxxxx


Make Hay not war! …A tribute to Hay, Ray and Sir Terry!

I wrote this post two years ago, but it is particularly poignant today, given the tragic news that Sir Terry Pratchett has lost his long fight with Alzheimer’s. He was a colossus of the fantasy genre and one of our brightest literary lights. He will be sadly missed by those who knew him and the millions of fans worldwide that wish they did. RIP Terry, you’re one in a billion! 😩 xxxx

Sophie E Tallis - Author/Illustrator

I’ll admit that my expectations of the Hay Festival were high
and I was NOT disappointed!

Returning home last night, at nearly 11pm, utterly exhausted and elated with a boot full of books, I found myself in a blissful state of delirium. What an experience! Not just the festival itself, with its Tibetan-like rainbow flags (perhaps fluttering in homage to the God of Books), its eco credentials and bohemian artsy feel, but the whole town and how each compliments the other. The entire vibe of the place
this little idyll, this heaven for book lovers nestled amongst the most breathtaking landscapes. Just bliss!

In a time of grim realities, economic meltdown, political confusion, conflict and war, to be immersed in such a haven is nothing short of magical. There are so few places where the written word is so celebrated. The minute my writer friend and I stepped foot in the town, you could almost feel

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Publication Day!!!!!

Lol, okay, I’m already late I know, but it’s taken me nearly a week to process what’s happened!

My epic fantasy, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was brilliantly published by Kristell Ink Publishing and Grimbold Books last week on 1st December 2014!!!!

To say I’m ecstatic would be a gross understatement, kind of like saying that George Lucas is only vaguely fond of science fiction!

My wonderful new publishers are a world, in fact, a galaxy far far away from what I had encountered previously and the level of dedication, hard work, expertise and passion with which they have approached the publishing of White Mountain, is more than I could ever have hoped for. From the attention to detail, the editing, the formatting, the layout, the beautiful calligraphy, not to mention the AWESOME original artwork commissioned for the AWESOME new cover!!! Wow! I’ve gone from hell to heaven in one leap!

White Mountain full book jacket

I won’t dwell on the past two years, mostly because this is an incredibly happy time and I don’t want to miss a blissful second of it! I’m humble and thankful beyond words, but mostly, for the first time in ages, I am really truly excited, thrilled and proud to have my novel, a book that took ten years in the writing and researching, finally published as it always should have been!

So, before I continue gushing all over your lovely carpet, what is the book actually about?

Well, beyond the plot itself, a struggle for survival against all odds, the courage it takes to stay the course and an epic showdown between good versus evil, the book is also about identity.

Wendya Undokki

Yes, it’s an epic fantasy in the old-fashioned ‘high fantasy’ tradition, but the themes run deeper than just the action. Throughout the book, the primary issues are around identity, how do we define it, define ourselves? Are we fated to repeat history, to be slaves to our genes? What defines family? Is it the people we are related to through blood that constitute a family or the people we choose to have in our lives, people we love and trust? I have my own personal reasons for being interested in that subject matter. I have said on more than one occasion that I identify with Wendya the most, for many of the same conflicted, complicated reasons.

The book deals with another of my passions, the transformative nature of the world we live in today. Our disappearing natural planet mirrors the growing confines that many of the main characters find themselves in. Humanity is everywhere, how does an ancient pre-existing culture hope to continue surviving, in secret, under such overwhelming pressures? How can the world continue as it is, with the current level of wanton destruction? In many ways the disintegration of the natural world perfectly reflects the disintegration of the characters own archaic civilisation, long past its prime and teetering on the edge of extinction.

I don’t hate every aspect of modern life, like Tolkien generally did, how could I? Where would I be without my blog, my TV, my modern comforts?

But like so many of us armchair activists, I worry for the planet’s future, for nature and the few wild places left. Even in the small rural idyll where I grew up, the bluebell wood at the bottom of the road that I used to play bare foot in, with the little twisting stream running through it, was torn up and replaced by ten ugly Barratt houses. Instead of building much needed houses on brown field sites crying out for rejuvenation or renovating the UK’s many abandoned buildings, our precious woodlands and green spaces are being carved up.

Once lost, those precious green spaces are lost forever.

The Grey Forest

Again, loss is a running theme too. Something we all experience to varying degrees and something that each of the characters have certainly experienced. Loss is as much a part of life as life itself, it is something that can define us, if we let it, or spur us on to achieve our goals while we still have time.

Lol, I’m sounding terribly serious here when I don’t mean to be. The novel has humour and lightness, particularly in the running banter between the characters, but in many ways it is an exploration of the state of humanity through a fantasy lens. That’s probably my favourite genre, not just fantasy, but ‘magic realism’, the blending of the real world with the fantastical one.

Anyway, enough pontificating. Here is a small excerpt from White Mountain, hope you enjoy it! 😀 xxx


The midday sun passed into a hazy afternoon. The last soldiers descended, and the host were on their way again, marching at a great pace to recover lost time. The landscape changed around them. Flat plains and rambling hills of tussock gave way to gnarled weather-beaten rock and thicket beds, their needle like thorns starkly black against the grey granite.

The ground sloped steadily downward before levelling, where the barren expanses of rock fell away into mud, reed and bog. They had reached the Shudras, the silent marshes.

Slimy quagmires stretched out before them as an endless sea. Troughs of stagnant water riddled their way into hazardous deep pools. Foul smelling vapours rose from the ground in choking clouds. The thought of crossing such a place lowered all their spirits.

“This was once a wondrous land,” Hallm said. “These were the water-meadows of the great Kara Kara River. The pure waters fed Fendellin’s rarest orchids here. Grass-pipers, willow larks and meadow-cranes, flitted amongst its grasses. Now, its foul mud clogs every channel and tributary with stagnant filth. Its water sprites and larks have long departed.”

“Our beasts cannot cross this!” King Baillum declared raising his hand. “The pathways should be clear at this time of year. This is the only passage through the swamps
the waters have risen! Another evil M’Sorreck has perpetrated on this land. If we try passing, we shall lose many good horses. Certainly, the wagons cannot cross.”

“How far do these marshes stretch?” Korrun asked Hallm.

“Eight and ten leagues at the shortest crossing, which is here,” he replied.

The King’s stoicism gave way to anger. “How could this happen? We sent scouts ahead to gauge the terrain. Why did they not report this? Bring them here!” he demanded.

Frell whispered into his father’s ear. The dwelf watched the King’s face change, an unmistakable flash of shock. The news was not good. Korrun glanced at Wendya and the wizard. As if reading his mind, Gralen stepped forward.

“If wheels are no use, wings will have to do,” he said boldly. “My kin can take the wagons and the oxen if the rest of you can find a way through?”

Korrun smiled. “He is right, Sire. If the fÿrrens can carry the heavier loads, we should be able to cross. I am a tracker and used to finding lost pathways. I’m sure we can find a way.”

“And if the horses are lost?”

“Then my kindred will have more burdens to bear,” replied Gralen simply. “A dworll is lighter than an ox!”

King Baillum managed a brief smile. “No obstacles too great? We shall see,” he said beckoning to Sedgewick above.

Sedgewick and the other dragons swooped down to carry the various wagons and carts, siege-rams and battle gear, too heavy for the marshes. The most careful dragons carried the nervous beasts, zebu, water buffalo and battle oxen, the eighteen leagues north, to dry land.

Following Korrun and Hallm, the army began their arduous crossing of the Shudras.

It was well into the night before the last exhausted traveller reached the delights of hard ground once more. They set up camp, the slimy mud and stench of the marshes clinging to each bedraggled member as an unwelcome reminder of the day. A deep unease fell on them.

Korrun sat quietly by one of the campfires, listening to Lord Tollam and Hallm speculate, in hushed tones on the battle to come.

“It could be a Hal’Torren’s choice all over again,” Hallm commented.

The other dworlls nodded grimly.

“Hal’Torren’s choice? What’s that?” Korrun asked.

Hallm shrugged. “It’s any situation where the outcome is pre- determined or unavoidable, and usually terrible.”

Lord Tollam poked the fire, his violet eyes reflecting the glimmer of the flames. “It is an old legend, but a true story. Hal’Torren was a nobleman, strong, incorruptible, a hero and leader to his people. He lived in Oralam, a beautiful city once. One day he returned home to find his family held hostage by his sworn enemy, M’Sorreck. Hal’Torren loved his family deeply, his wife, his three young children. He offered his life in exchange for theirs. But Morreck wanted something far more precious. He wanted to break Hal’Torren utterly.” Tollam sighed. “No matter what he did, how he bartered and begged, Hal’Torren was given a dreadful choice. Watch ten thousand of his own people perish, innocent children and families like his own, to save just one member of his family, or save his people and watch all his family die. Now Hal’Torren was a great leader, and he loved his people, but like any father, how could he sacrifice his own family?”

Korrun looked at the wise old dworll. “What did he choose?”

“To condemn ten thousand souls to a grisly death, to save one of his family.” He shook his head. “Then he had to make the worst choice of all
which member of his family to save. That is Hal’Torren’s choice. It is no choice at all. You are damned whichever path you take!”

“How did it end?” the dwelf asked quietly.

Lord Tollam sighed and glanced at his son as if thanking the gods that he never had to face such a choice. “Tragically of course
he chose to save his daughter, the youngest of his three children. They were then forced to watch his wife and two sons being murdered before them. Naturally, it traumatised the young girl. Only a few years later her father found her hanging from a willow tree. He promptly hung himself beside her. You see why Hal’Torren’s choice is impossible. Save one, sacrifice others, condemn yourself.”

“Morreck is a fengal beast, a monster!” Korrun said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, of the worst kind
” replied Tollam.

Hallm looked at his father for a moment then turned to the dwelf. “Have you ever faced a Hal’Torren’s choice?” he asked.

Korrun shifted uneasily, his face half hidden in shadow. “Once,” he whispered.

“What happened?” Hallm asked, trying to hide his surprise.

The dwelf stood up, his eyes lost in the fire. “I made the wrong choice,” he said simply, then turned and left.


Fendellin and the Encircling Mountains

White Mountain cover

White Mountain full book jacket


Farewell my Dragon Friend, Lindsey J Parsons.


*deep sigh*

This is the hardest blog post I have ever had to write, and it breaks my heart in the writing of it. Two days ago, I heard the shocking news that one of my dearest friends, Lindsey J Parsons, had suddenly and tragically passed away.262888_2238622135240_4045698_n[1]

Shocking is the word…at a time when words seem to fail. I simply cannot believe it and I cannot understand it.

Lindsey was not just one of my closest internet friends, she was one of my closest real friends. We talked and laughed almost every day, messaging each other back and forth like a couple of idiots, just being daft on the internet. http://lindseyjparsons.com/

She was one of the first people I’d share my woes with. One of the few truly wonderful people on this planet.

69190_4684701805703_297748057_n[1]I met Lindsey back in 2010, along with my other AWB friends (Alliance of Worldbuilders) – a group of geeky fantasy and sci-fi writers and the largest group/thread on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy. We immediately clicked. Not only were we fantasy writers with a passion for the fantasy genre, we both obsessively and childishly adored dragons! It was true to say that neither of us ever grew up, and I loved that free spirit and lack of cynicism in Lindsey. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was always, ALWAYS, helpful, supportive, positive and encouraging of fellow writers. There was no ego with Lindsey. She shared openly and gave freely of her time and her talents.

432075_3446252725250_133180967_n[1]Our mutual love of dragons was clearly evident in our dragon pictures and internet avatars, though Lindsey’s dragon passion was even greater than mine, with an impressive collection of dragon statues and mementos at her home and a fantastic stone dragon on her roof! 425036_3160213334444_1952181019_n[1]

Lindsey soon became the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, keeping the thread fresh, funny and going when many of us (especially myself) were less than frequent in our attendance.

She was always on hand to share her experiences, share information, knowledge, advice and to encourage others at every opportunity.

Lindsey demonstrated that incredible support and friendship when on the 6th October 2012, she travelled all the way from her home to a small little bookshop in Cirencester, for the launch of my debut novel. All that way to support a fellow dragon friend, someone who at that point, she had never actually met before!

4994981[1]I knew instantly that it was her. The bookshop was very busy, packed in fact, the launch was a big success but was also all rather overwhelming. I didn’t know where to turn, between chatting to customers and children and signing books…all very surreal. Then, amongst the milling crowds, I saw this seemingly quiet and small dark-haired lady, a petite figure with an unmistakable twinkle in her eyes. She waited patiently while I ‘did my thing’ (whatever that was), but we both instantly shared that, “Wow! It’s you!” moment.

Lindsey being Lindsey, stayed for quite a few hours. After the event, Lindsey, myself and my very good mate, Will Macmillan Jones (also another great AWB pal), all went next-door for a coffee, cake and a natter. It was SO lovely to finally meet her face to face after nearly two years of internet friendship, emails, and messages etc. It felt so special, being there with my two close friends talking about writing, our plans for the future and each other’s books. Lindsey was so generous, so excited for me and for herself and her new life as a writer. She had such ambitions and dreams and it was wonderful listening to her and being a part of it all. 531086_373803919378597_1702802832_n[1]

More than that…Lindsey J Parsons WAS and IS a BRILLIANT writer! I’m a hard bugger to please, believe me. I’ve read so many awful books, badly written, boring, nonsensical, badly edited, trite, dull, clichĂ©d etc. But with Lindsey it was easy and a sheer delight, because her books truly were and are wonderful!

She was a truly amazing writer. As a reader, I really am like Marmite, I either love something or I hate it, I can’t be indifferent or ambivalent. No sitting on fences here, that’s how you get splinters in your arse! 7908_475725272508236_169525754_n[1]

When I first picked up Lindsey’s debut novel, Vortex, Book 1 of her Return of the Effra series, I had my doubts. Afterall, I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance. I love my fantasy epic and I guess, a little traditional. But WOW! The moment I started reading it, I was hooked. In fact the only other recent book which had me transfixed like that was Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Vortex really is that good. I’m a slow reader, by osmosis I think, but I read it in just two days, I simply couldn’t put the thing down. I then proceeded to re-read it several times after that, something I never do, unless it’s a really good book.

Vortex certainly deserves all of its many 5 star reviews and I was thrilled for Lindsey, that it was doing so well, and so proud of her. She wrote and produced that book on her own terms. She set up her own publishing company, AFS Publishing http://www.afspublishing.com/, and produced a book that had the quality look and feel of any mainstream publication and quite frankly, beat the pants off of many indie publishing houses. Her daughter’s boyfriend, Greg Barons, did the amazing covers, but the book was pure Lindsey. What a legacy! 544830_318401201571709_870759055_n[1]

She went on to write and publish her second novel in the Return of the Effra series, Wicked Game, which I have started to read and absolutely LOVE. Another 5 star book and another much deserved and roaring success for Lindsey. wicked-game-cover-1[2]

But as well as being a terrifically talented writer, Lindsey was also my good friend. A lot of our friendship also centred around the fact that we are both dreadful insomniacs. While all our other friends had gone to sleep, Lindsey and I were almost waking up! We’d speak nearly every day, but often, we’d be chatting til 2, 3 even 4am in the morning. Constantly messaging each other over how daft we were that we couldn’t sleep. But it was so lovely, knowing that when midnight struck and most of my friends had gone offline to bed, me & Linds were only just starting! There was a wonderful comradeship in that, in sharing our insomnia, our idiot ideas at 3am in the morning when both of us had to be up early the next day. Like me, Lindsey seemed to come alive at night, something about the witching hour that got our creative juices flowing. I cannot even begin to express how much I will miss that, how much I will miss her.

It’s fair to say, that I have been in a constant stream of tears these last two days, in fact, quite incapable of not crying. Last night was the worst, not having my friend to talk to through the night. But…this post isn’t about me, it’s about Lindsey and what an extraordinary person she was.

The terrible irony of all this, is that only a matter of weeks ago, Lindsey re-blogged my post about the ‘Passing of a Legend’, namely the death of Nelson Mandela, and then this happens. Lindsey J Parsons may not have been as well-known a figure as Nelson Mandela, but nonetheless, she shared many similarities with him. She was a truly kind and wonderful person, who always thought of others before herself, and she did, in so many ways, touch the lives of not just those around her, but everyone she came into contact with. THAT is a rare gift, but then Lindsey was a rare lady. 295755[1]

734419_10200817040058504_1555471576_n[1]She lived life to the fullest, something so many of us fail to do (myself included). Despite her small frame, she really did have the heart of a dragon – an adventurous and daring nature. She loved pushing herself, seeing what she could achieve and boy, didn’t she achieve a lot! She loved walking, nature, her doggies and horses, being on her farm, horse riding, including bareback riding and, like everything she did, she loved archery and was brilliant at it! She was part of a long bow archery club and competed to a high standard, even winning medals. I SO wish I had made it to her last archery competition in Cheltenham, where she proudly won the bronze medal. She’d certainly give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money! 1953998f444d2c9aaeece3dd3c2b8551[2]

Lindsey threw herself into everything she did. She was a vital and much-loved part of her rural community, even organising events like cinema night at the local village hall. Everyone who knew her loved her, how you could not?

198501_1004765129586_205_n[1]This was no ordinary woman. This was a cowboy boot wearing, dragon-loving, snow-loving, fantasy writing, archery medal winning, awesomely talented author and mother of three children! Apart from being a wonderful friend to me and so many others, Lindsey was also an amazing mum to her three gorgeous children, Cat, Amy-Jane and Tom, who must be utterly shattered by the shocking and sudden loss of their lovely mum. My thoughts and love go out to them and all of Lindsey’s family at this terrible terrible time. None of us can fathom what they must be going through. 😩

Another example of Lindsey’s incredible bravery and zest for life, was when last year she decided to go off to America by herself, to attend a Romance Writing Convention. I did want to join her, but couldn’t due to ill-health, but nonetheless, little Lindsey got on that plane and headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas (or Las Vagas as she called it)! I would have pee’d in my pants, but Lindsey took it all in her stride and had a fabulous time! She sent pictures of herself, sitting like a pro at this enormous table in the convention hall, with all her books and booky swag around her. She’d organised everything, things she could take on the flight and things she had to get printed and shipped in the US. Then, she even attended the convention ball, where everyone dressed up, and Lindsey, of course, went in a stunning silver and blue dragon dress, complete with wing flaps!!!! What a girl! 1001089_10201621766816170_2138720117_n[1]

While she was over there, Lindsey also met up with another two AWB members and fellow fantasy friends, Susan and Richard Wentworth, who were thrilled to meet her.

Yes, Lindsey was truly a one-off. She was utterly fearless and had so much more to offer this world.

Over the Christmas just gone, we chatted about going to America together this year and we were both thrilled at the idea, excitedly talking about our plans for 2014. Lindsey wanted to show me the sights and I know we would have had a blast, two dragons together! She also had an Authorcon arranged up in Manchester with fellow AWB friends, Andrea Baker, Hazel Butler and Will Macmillan Jones, a great forum in which to launch her third novel in the Return of the Effra series, Shegal, due out this year. postcard-shegal[1]

Of course now…all those plans are gone, as is our beautiful Lindsey. The world really was her oyster and I truly believe she could have achieved anything she put her mind, heart and talents to.

We spoke on the net on New Year’s Day, wishing each other a wonderful 2014. Hours later that day, while walking, she felt very unwell. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed as having had a burst brain aneurism and was placed into a medical coma. She had an emergency operation which was thought to be successful, but deteriorated and passed away on Sunday 5th January, surrounded by her family.

Words really cannot express the horror and shock of what has happened, or the hole she has left behind for those who loved and cared about her. The random cruelty of nature, life, whatever you call it, is simply abominable and unfathomable. For someone so young and vital, with everything going for her and an incredible writing talent…goodness only knows what else she could have achieved if her life hadn’t been so tragically cut short.

Q1-me-in-cowboy-boots[1]For myself, I mourn the loss of a dear dear friend, my other dragon half, my insomniac confidant, my Lindsey. But for her family, they mourn an incredible sister and a wonderful wonderful mother. I am so SO sorry for their loss. My heart goes out to them.

Lindsey J Parsons, the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, the most talented, kindest and sweetest person I have ever known, who I am privileged to call my friend.

I will miss her every time it snows, every time I write, every time I can’t sleep, every time I have good news to share, or troubles, and every time I see a picture of a horse, a dragon, or a unicorn, I will think of Lindsey. 😩 1015fb6fa1b776958a172468aaf680ba[1]

I’m not a religious person, and I know my tears are inadequate, but I wish you a thousand thank you’s and blessings. If there is a heaven, I’m sure you are there with your cowboy boots on.

May dragon wings soar you to the stars, my friend, where I will see you again one day. All my love, Sophie xxxxxxx

Lindsey J Parsons


R.I.P. xxxxxx


PLEASE support Lindsey and her family by buying these FANTASTIC books and helping Lindsey’s Legacy – getting her the recognition she deserves. http://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-J-Parsons/e/B008D7RXQ6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1


Farewell to Friends…

020 (2)Why do we set ourselves up for heartache? If you are a loving human being with half a heart, then why do we embrace having four-legged family members when we know that when the inevitable comes, the grief is terrible?

We have always had animals, ‘pets’ seems the wrong word, too insignificant, too trivial somehow. Yes, you can tell I’m one of these soppy humans who deeply love my four-legged friends. For me and my family, they are not pets, they ARE family members and when the dreadful time comes, it is totally crushing. I know we are not the only people that feel this way, so why oh why do we put ourselves through the trauma of it all?

Well, we have been very lucky over the years that all of our four-legged friends have been long-lived and happy. 17 years seems to be the common denominator, as our last dog (Fluff) and our last cat (Kitty) both died at the age of 17. One by a reoccurrence of the cancer that had taken one of her legs three years prior, and the other was killed by idiot teenagers racing through our sleepy village at 80 miles an hour! If a child had been crossing the road at the time, they would have been killed too. One death we could prepare for, the other was shockingly quick with no-time to say goodbye, which does make it worse somehow. But nonetheless, when the end comes, it’s simply terrible.

Well, last Friday 15th November, our beloved cat, Mimi, who we had for 17 years, died after a shockingly quick illness. We weren’t prepared, any of us. 😩

17 years ago, only a day or so after a particularly horrific episode with my violent alcoholic father who had yet again attacked my poor mum, we were shopping at the local Tesco’s supermarket. It was a late Friday evening in early November, pitch black, full of smoke from the bonfires and fireworks going on around us. Everyone having fun, getting on with their lives, as we were trying to pick up the pieces of ours. A difficult time to say the least. We came out of the store to the mostly empty carpark. I was vaguely aware of some kids on bikes with firecrackers, shouting and hollering at each other, they seemed to be chasing something. Then, out of the darkness I heard what I thought was a baby crying. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from. The kids came closer, still chasing something. Then suddenly I saw this tiny black thing run across the carpark towards me. I bent down. It was a little cat, a poor half-starved thing, all bones and long black fur. She looked like a new-born, she was so miniscule.

I picked her up, and she immediately snuggled into me and started purring. It was then that I realised that this tiny little kitten was the thing that those awful kids had been chasing and throwing firecrackers at. She didn’t have any collar or tags, and clearly whoever owned her, had neglected her terribly. We took her into Tesco’s, really not knowing what to do. The security guard, a huge bear of a man, just melted when he saw her, but said that she wouldn’t belong to anyone there and that the best thing was to take her to the vets.

She was so emaciated, no bigger than the size of a grapefruit and as light as cotton wool, that we really didn’t think she’d survive the night. But, right from the beginning, she was a little fighter. We took her to the vets the next day and was shocked to be told that was at least six months old and could be nearly a year old, she’d been so starved that she was half the size she should be and if she survived, she would always, as a result, be a small cat. We decided then and there, that we had to look after her.

We took her home and this tiny thing immediately showed how much gutsy fight she had in her. Despite her size she boldly waltzed up to our soft-hearted Border Collie, Fluff, and showing no fear, hissed in her face! But, despite the bumpy beginnings, Fluff and Mimi soon became the very best of friends, an inseparable duo.

Two weeks passed and Mimi steadily gained weight and health and was fighting fit, albeit still tiny, and then the poor little thing went into season. Warned by the vets, that due to her initial starvation, she would never be big enough to carry kittens, we regrettably did the responsible thing and had her neutered. But my, what gorgeous kittens she would have had, a feisty half Persian, half Siamese constantly talking, long-haired beauty! 254

The strange reality of all this, is that, that little cat needed us and we needed her just as much.

After all the horrific things that had happened, Mimi may have been a rescue cat, but she had actually rescued us too.  She gave my Mum a much-needed distraction and something to love and look after when college called. She healed many of the wounds that had been inflicted on us by my monster of an ex-father. For me personally, after the death of my beloved cat, Kitty, I had sworn to never have a cat again, it was just too painful and Kitty was irreplaceable. But here, suddenly, was this little thing. She found us.

015Years passed, things change, sadly our dog Fluff died and so Mimi was the only family pet for a while. More bad times, more upset, more drama, but still she was there. Then two boisterous huge white wolves came along and we moved house and Mimi, now an old but lively lady, took it all in her stride. In fact, her last twelve months were her best. Suddenly she had a new lease on life, instead of spending her days eating and sleeping, she was a kitten again – climbing trees, running across the garden at full speed, jumping ever higher heights, playing games with the boys including lying in wait for them to poke their heads through the dog flap so she could pounce on them. She even put up with one of my dogs, Tolly, and his obsessive love for her, following her around like a love-sick stalker, only inches from her face, smiling and sighing at she passed, hoping she would reciprocate his affection.

Yes, she had the perfect life. Log fires, roasting radiators, 2 acres to roam in, and a plethora of places to play, sunbathe, hunt and sleep in. Life was good. We were all convinced that we had at least another 5yrs with her. Even three months ago, the vets described her as amazing for her age, with brilliant health results. 705

So when she suddenly seemed off her food, we weren’t too alarmed. Nonetheless, we took her to the vets promptly. They seemed worried, she wasn’t eating and showed no sign of wanting to. Anything she did eat she sicked up again. She lost weight dramatically over just two days. She stayed in the veterinary hospital for three days. It was sudden liver failure, nothing we could have foreseen or prevented, but the sudden nature of it was shocking given how fit and healthy she had been only days before. By last Thursday we were told the worst, nothing they had done had worked, all the meds, all the procedures, nothing. She was dreadfully weak and jaundiced. The liver had failed completely and couldn’t be repaired. We took her home in a daze of tears. We stayed with her all night in the living room, in front of the open fire, just stroking her and trying to give her water.

Even at the end, she was such a fighter. She didn’t die peacefully in her sleep as we had hoped, she still kept fighting despite her body failing her. By Friday afternoon, there was nothing more we could do…she died in our arms in front of the fire she loved so much. 333

We placed her on her favourite pillow. The boys, who knew she was very ill and had been so gentle and calm with her, came in to say goodbye. Korrun immediately started whimpering when he saw her and backed away, but Tolly kept nudging her with his nose and pawing her, trying to wake her up. He misses her terribly.

In tears amongst the rain and the dimming light, we dug a hole in the garden, said a prayer and buried her beneath the flowering cherry tree, with her favourite toys and cushion.

A couple of days later, when we felt strong enough, we took the boys with us in the car and drove to a very special place, Teckels Animal Sanctuaries http://www.teckelsanimalsanctuaries.co.uk/ that take in and look after rescue animals. In Mimi’s memory we wanted to help other rescue cats like her, so we donated the remaining toys, food, litter and other items to them. They were very grateful for the donation and so very kind. But for us, it was also a way of recognising that we’ll never have another cat. Mimi is and was truly irreplaceable. 011

I’m sure for those of you who don’t have animals and perhaps even for some of you that do, this must all seem very silly and over-the-top. All this fuss over an old cat? But she has been such a central part of our family for so long, and though she only occupied a small space, the hole she has left is enormous.


The household is quieter now. No constant cat chattering, no infatuated love-struck doggy. Tolly in particular has taken it very badly and whimpers, which he never did before. He still looks for her, convinced she is merely hiding from him, and cried when he saw her cat basket. It will take time and lots of hugs for us to all feel better and heal our sad hearts. But it certainly makes you realise how short all our lives are and how important it is to love and care for those dear to us, whether they have two legs or four!

So, in memory of a beautiful, small, determined, sassy, demanding, uniquely special little cat who ruled the roost and kept us all in line, I say thank you and I love you.

I should take this opportunity to thank our amazing veterinary hospital, Vale Vets http://www.valevets.co.uk/ and our wonderful vet, Ella Robotham, who has always taken such great care of the boys and Mimi, and who worked tirelessly to try to save her. Thank you for all your care, kindness and sensitivity, we owe you a debt of gratitude. xxx

Please support your local animal charities, particularly those who look after rescued and abused animals and take such wonderful care of them. For people wishing to help Teckels Animal Sanctuaries: http://www.teckelsanimalsanctuaries.co.uk/  Please donate as little as ÂŁ1 by sending a text from your mobile phone. Simply text ‘PETS10’ followed by the amount you wish to donate (up to £10) to 70070 i.e. text ‘PETS10 £5’ to 70070 would donate ÂŁ5 to Teckels Animal Sanctuaries.


Rest in peace sweet girl. xxxxx


The Last Letter


Dear Someone,

I’m glad you have found this little place, my haven. It has sheltered me for over fifteen months. I do not know if the world beyond has changed. I hope with all my heart that it has. I hope that somewhere, even if it isn’t here, but somewhere, there are children playing. I hope people are making their way to work, slurping cups of coffee between quick bites to eat. I hope there is traffic. Oh, how I miss traffic! The sound of the engine humming along, the thud of rubber tyres running fast on cement, exhaust fumes. Yes
I miss traffic almost as much as I miss the birds. I hope the world you find yourself in has returned from the brink of insanity that I left it in. I hope somewhere, that there are people who still make sandwiches and load washing machines.

Please forgive my ramblings. I’m tired and well, I didn’t know how to write this letter. How does anyone write a letter in these times? Perhaps this is the last letter left. I hope not. I should be filling it with profound sayings, teachings I’ve learnt, some kind of knowledge. I’m sorry it’s not better than this. I find it hard to clarify my thoughts these days, words somehow, just don’t seem enough.

You should know that there are provisions here for one person for a year, if there are more of you, oh how I wish there is, then you can ration them to make them last longer. The tinned peaches are particularly good! There are matches under the stove and a flint head to make sparks should you use the matches up. The tank collects plenty of rainwater so that will be fine, just be sure not to turn the tap too tightly. It’s a little rusty and sticks, I had been meaning to fix that. The toilet is just a bucket, I’m afraid, there’s a stagnant pond nearby that I throw the slops in, don’t be tempted to dispose of them by the door, and DON’T use the house, it’s not safe. There are some fresh clothes under the bunk and some other useful stuff. There’s a gun under there too, but, I’m afraid I only have 12 bullets. Use only dry wood for the stove so it doesn’t smoke and leave the junk on top of the chimney, it disguises the vent. I’m sure I’m forgetting things. Make sure you use the periscope before you go out. It looks dumb I know, but it actually works! My uncle had built this place as a bomb shelter years ago, then converted it into a playhouse complete with periscope, when my brother and I were kids
that was long before any of this madness.

I don’t really know what else to say. Stay quiet, stay locked in, especially when you’re sleeping. If you have to go out, only go out at night and keep low. If you do get spotted, the door will shut and lock tight and should hold even against a gun blast. There is an emergency tunnel behind the stove if things get bad but I’ve no idea if it’s safe or even where it goes to.

Sorry. This letter should be better. I have no advice really that I can give you. I used to believe in god. I used to go to church every Sunday. I used to do a lot of things.

I hope the world has changed for you, that the sky is blue again and the trees are green and the birds have returned. I still dream of fields of soft green grass and buttercups and butterflies! Yes, butterflies!

Good luck.

I’m going to join my family now.


From Mrs Dean Mitchell, the last grandmother. xx


(Sophie E Tallis © 2013 – ‘flash fiction’ for writing challenge competition on theme of letters)

(check this letter out and many more stories on ReadWave: http://www.readwave.com/the-last-letter_s11823 )


The Epic Tragedy of Love

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Literature, history and mythology is littered with great heroes and heroines, those mystically imbued figures whose short poetic lives have enriched ours, and whose tragic and doomed love affairs have become the stuff of legend. As a child I was first aware of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, and their struggles against a world so determined to tear them apart. Their torn loyalties of family, responsibility, duty, honour, and the forbidden love they held for each other, seemed to mirror the angst we teenagers inevitably felt. Luckily at my school, we had a rich diet of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Anthony & Cleopatra (another doomed couple), Julius Caesar, Hamlet (unrequited & destructive love), Othello (jealous, possessive love) & Macbeth (the manipulation of love). I was fascinated by the interplay of characters, how each couple and individual reacted to the circumstances they found themselves in, the choices they made, whether destiny played a part, how love could be corrupted or could corrupt others. As a hopeless romantic, (Shh! Don’t tell anyone! I try not to admit it and refrain from reading any chick-lit, ‘slushy trash’ as I call it, hey…sci-fi/fantasy girl here!), I do see the allure of such characters and such stories and how they ultimately convey the human condition in all its absurdities, frailties, flaws and its glory.

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, my reading lists widened and as my love of the fantasy genre and its origins took hold, I began delving into ancient mythology. The wonderful Welsh sagas of The Mabinogion (based on tales from 1190-1350) and particularly Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (1485), is still a favourite of mine, and the eternal love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere & Launcelot. Somehow, you can still sense the searing pain of betrayal in Arthur’s heart, the conflict in the lovers and their guilt at their actions, yet their total inability to stop themselves falling in love. Of course, it is as true today as it was in 600AD, you cannot help who you fall in love with. I remember watching John Boorman’s mesmeric 1981 film Excalibur, with its incredible visuals and Carl Orff’s thunderous Carmina Burana spurring the horses on through the mists of battle. But still, through all the magic and heroism, it was the tragic love story that kept haunting me. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting looking at a beautiful print of The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (1888), based on the famous Tennyson poem and all that doomed heart ache just comes flooding back.

tristan and isolde

tristan and isolde (Photo credit: kairin)

When you think of the greatest and most tragic love stories you probably think of the ones I’ve mentioned and of Tristan & Iseult (Isolde), Paris & Helena, Orpheus and Eurydice and perhaps poor Pyramus and Thisbe. Having lived in ancient Babylonia in neighbouring homes, they fell in love with each other as they grew up. Their respective families were fervently against the match, so one night the two lovers hatched a plan. They decided to meet up under a mulberry tree in the nearby fields, and run away together. Thisbe reached the tree first, but frightened at seeing a lion approach with blood stained jaws, she ran and hid in some rocks, dropping her veil as she ran. The lion picked up the veil just as Pyramus arrived. Devastated at seeing Thisbe’s veil in the lion’s bloody mouth, Pyramus took his sword out and killed himself. When poor Thisbe eventually emerged from the rocks and saw her beloved Pyramus dead, she too took his sword and killed herself.  😩

Pyramus and Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, you have the sad tale of Heloise and Abelard, which is perhaps the most tragic love affair of all, especially as it is a story based on an actual event. Being fact rather than merely myth, makes us all marvel at the power of sacrifice and the power of love. Heloise (1101-1164) and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) had their story immortalised by British poet, Alexander Pope in 1717, who turned it into a piece of classic literature, ‘Eloisa to Abelard’. Heloise and Abelard were ridiculously in love and doomed to a tragic end in mid 12th century France. Abelard was a well-known French philosopher, considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. Heloise, was the niece and pride of the Canon Fulbert, who wanted her to have the best education possible. Abelard became the girl’s live-in tutor, 20 years her senior. A romance blossomed between them, a romance that so enraged her disapproving uncle that he had Abelard castrated shortly after they were discovered. Distraught, the lovers entered a monastery and nunnery and wrote a set of now-famous letters to each other up until their death, though they never met again.

Abelard and his pupil, HĂ©loĂŻse, by Edmund Blai...

Abelard and his pupil, HĂ©loĂŻse, by Edmund Blair Leighton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These tragedies both real and imagined have inspired such a rich tapestry of stories. As a huge fan of fantasy, from the world’s first ever story, The Epic of Gilgamesh to Beowulf to The Lord Of The Rings, Narnia and Game Of Thrones etc., I still like my fantasy to have that tragic element, that hint of doomed love or sacrifice. In the classic tradition J.R.R.Tolkien of course, being a scholar in ancient Nordic and Celtic mythology, was able to bring many of these elements into his work, particularly in The Silmarillion.

Cover of "The Silmarillion"

Cover of The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, I book I still adore and one which I am very lucky to have a cherished first edition of, has two tragic love stories which really wrench at the heart. The first of course, is the heroic story of Beren and Luthien, later mirrored in the love story of Aragorn and Arwen in LOTR. Here, the story of Beren and Luthien (with similarities to Orpheus and Eurydice) tells of the love between a mortal man, Beren and the most beautiful immortal elf-maiden, Luthien Tinuviel and the struggles and obstacles they face in their quest to be together. But for me, by far the more tragic love story and the one which is the antithesis to Beren’s story, was the darker tale of poor Turin Turambar. Despite being a great hero, Turin Turambar, seems forever cursed with ill fortune and the very worst of luck. He battles valiantly against evil foes, yet whatever he turns his hand to seems to go wrong. Eventually both Turin and his sister Nienor are enchanted by a mighty dragon, Glaurung. Under its enchantment, they fall in love with each other and live as man and wife. But, when Turin kills the dragon and the spell is lifted, they are driven mad by the realisation of their sins and they both commit suicide. This perhaps, is Tolkien at his darkest, but still as a reader, you cannot help feeling such sorrow and sympathy for these two sad characters.

My personal favourite though, and a story that inspired Tolkien himself, has to be the story of Sigurd and Brynhild, from the Volsunga Saga. Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) and Brynhild from the Volsunga Saga (ancient Norse mythology

SigrdrĂ­fa gives SigurĂ°r a horn to drink from.

Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

c.1000AD), is a bittersweet tale of romance, heroism, greed, betrayal and tragedy. The later German hero, Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied (1180 to 1210) (The Song of the Nibelungs) and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is based on Sigurd and the Volsunga Saga. Basically, urged on by Loki and Odin, Sigurd kills the dragon Fafnir and takes his treasure hoard. He bathes in the dragon’s blood to become invincible, and meets Brynhildr ‘shieldmaiden’, who in some incarnations of the story is a Valkyrie imbued with supernatural powers. They fall in love but Brynhild prophesies his doom and marriage to another. They part temporarily. Sigurd travels to the court of Gjuki, whose wife, Grimhild poisons him with an ‘Ale of Forgetfulness’ to force him to forget Brynhild so he can marry their daughter, Gudrun. Meanwhile, Gunnar, Gudrun’s brother courts Brynhild who is still waiting for her beloved Sigurd. To win Brynhild over, Gunnar devises a plan and convinces an enchanted Sigurd to help him. Unable to get near to Brynhild himself, but seeing that Sigurd can, Gunnar swaps bodies with him to seduce Brunhild and break her defences/powers, enabling him to seize his prize thereafter. Eventually, all deceptions come to light. Gunnar plots against and kills Sigurd, in some stories Brynhild then kills him, but the story ends with Sigurd and Brynhild finally reunited in death as she throws herself onto Sigurd’s blazing funeral pyre! What a way to go!English: A Christmas bonfire in Guelph, Canada.


The map to the human heart is a complicated route indeed, full of hidden perils, surprises and joyous heights!

Now…you may well ask, why on earth I am exploring tragic love affairs in literature, myth and history? Why the sudden interest?

Well…I’m glad to say I haven’t had a tragic experience myself, but…I am, I’m afraid, witnessing one as I write this. Yes, I’m not talking about my favourite tear inducing movie, or the howls of, “NO, GOD NO!” that I heard being cried at the TV screen from my friends who were apoplectic at the death of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. No…I’m talking about a real life love tragedy unfolding before my eyes right now – a scene of unparalleled sadness, of unrequited love that makes all of the previous tales pale into insignificance.

Forget Romeo & Juliet, Heathcliff & Cathy, who cares about Tristan & Isolde? This is the sad sad tale of…Tolly & Mimi…

On the 1st August 2009, four years ago this very day, I was travelling back from Bridgewater having rescued two gorgeous white balls of fluff from the most hideous living conditions you can imagine. Four years later, my beautiful white wolves, brothers Korrun & Tolly, are happy and healthy and well…totally gorgeous. 349

Only one problem…Tolly is in love, deeply, passionately, unconditionally…an all consuming obsessional love and one which tragically, it is completely unrequited.

Wherever Mimi goes, Tolly follows, every move she makes he mirrors, no more than two inches from her face at all times, staring adoringly, gazing, dribbling, sighing with pensive longing when she retreats upstairs. Such desperate longing, such sadness…the poor boy just hasn’t realised that cats and dogs simply don’t…well, it’s a barrier greater than that of the Capulets and Montagues!